Minister for Education Richard Bruton is to publish rules aimed at reducing the cost of education for parents, with penalties for schools that do not comply.

The Department of Education has issued a statement saying a forthcoming circular to schools will require them to ensure that school uniforms can be bought from a variety of sources, by using for instance iron-on or sew-on school crests.

Schools will also be required to provide book rental schemes for students and to ensure that "where possible" parents can purchase generic as opposed to branded school items, such as computer tablets and sports equipment.

The circular to schools will require them to review the cost of items that parents must buy and to make this information available to parents. 

The statement says that where an exclusive supply arrangement applies, it should be tendered for regularly.

It says schools that do not comply will receive a smaller increase in funding towards the day-to-day running costs of the school, known as capitation.

The circular to schools will be published in the coming days and will be enforced from next September.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Bruton said the rules are part of a wider suite measures.

The minister also said that the announcement this week of €2.4m in funding to encourage diversity in teaching will encourage under-represented groups to become taechers.

Reacting to the news, the president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland urged Mr Bruton to address capitation grants, rather than threatening schools with cuts, if they fail to reduce the cost of items for parents.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ed Byrne said that he was in favour of reducing costs for parents but pointed out that schools have seen a reduction in funding over the past ten years.

Barnardos Chief Executive Fergus Finlay said it was "long past time" that schools were told they had to apply common sense when it came to the issue.

However, he said this measure does not involve any new funding by the State.

Speaking on the same programme, he said it would cost less than €100m to make primary school education in Ireland free.

Mr Finlay said he did not understand why successive ministers for education have failed to invest such a small amount of money that would have long-term economic effects.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul also welcomed the announcement, but said the measures are not sufficient to address the financial burden placed on parents.

The organisation called for an increase to the capitation grant, saying it would ultimately benefit parents and children.